Holt adoption baby

sell by 12/19/66


leave a comment »

I put quite a lot of time in on http://transracialeyes.com/2012/05/23/what-does-culture-say-about-adoption/ my latest comment at Transracialeyes.  It’s kind of a summation of what I’ve learned about Korean culture in regards to adoption while living here.

I also posted on Facebook today:

Please DON’T CALL ME an adoptee. I WAS adopted. I am not adopted now. Don’t define me by my former adoption.

I am now free to be whoever I want to be. Like a person liberated from slavery, they cease to be slaves once they fully embrace their liberty. I WAS in bondage. Now I am free.

Kevin Ost-Volmers of Land of Gazillion Adoptees wanted to interview me about “What’s next?”  Well, that quote above is kind of a summation of that.  I’m going to go back home to America and do all the same things I did before, only I have my own internal compass now that is no longer warped by the iron attraction of unaddressed adoption issues.  I think it’s going to be great.


Written by girl4708

May 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Older Adoptees

with 6 comments

I was asked to give a speech at GOAL’s Post Adoption Survey final forum on the topic of adoptee identity from an older adoptee’s perspective. I thought I’d share it here.

I don’t remember where I got all the images. If you’re an image owner and protest its use, I will gladly take the image down.

Here it is, paraphrased (with the odd thing I forgot to add during the speech):

For the first waves of adoptees, we were scattered across America, predominantly to small towns.

These were insular communities, unaccustomed to and fearful of foreigners and devoid of people of color.

Our peers looked much like the students in this class photo. Note not one ethnic face. This was typical outside of cities. It was all WE saw, and they saw us as something totally different.

Back then, there was little or no vetting of adoptive parents. The only requirement was that they had an income, they professed to be Christians, and could get personal references. As a result, many of us were sent to religious extremists. Some were even sent to cults. Jim Jones adopted from Korea. Adoptees sent to cults have told me of parishioners being encouraged to adopt as many Korean orphans as they could. They were exposed to cruel physical and emotional abuse. Other adoptees have told me of being used as farm labor and experiencing physical abuse. Our isolation allowed these things to happen without intervention.

Because we were a minority, oftentimes the ONLY minority, we experienced a lot of cruelty. All adoptees have experienced some racism, but back then it was extreme. The year I graduated from high school, in a town near mine, Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by unemployed autoworkers, simply because he was Asian and all Asians reminded them of the Japanese stealing their jobs. His assailants got 2 years probation and a $3,780 fine. The climate of racism was a very real threat.

And so we carried on as best we could, in our all white communities, with our all white friends, like this church youth group of the 70’s.

Naturally, since this monoculture and monorace was all we were exposed to, IF we happened to meet an Asian, we were afraid of the way they looked and how to deal with them.

IF we saw other Asian youth, we noted how our community regarded them, and we didn’t want to be regarded the same way, so we avoided them.

Even though we made white friends, we were aware that we never really fit in.

Later, IF we saw Asian American youth and their tight communities, they seemed impenetrable to us.

We never felt like we could belong to any of them. A lonely, scarey place to be.

Growing up, there wasn’t any literature for children about adoption. Only about orphans.

Not like today, where there are all kinds of books about being adopted. (although I prefer P.D. Eastman’s book Are You My Mother, because at least in that book the orphan isn’t really an orphan and finds his real mother – while many of these books over emphasize the child’s specialness and the agenda to be grateful strongly permeates between the lines)

We didn’t have adoptee groups or culture camps either. We had to deal with our uniqueness on our own, and we couldn’t (and oftentimes were discouraged from) talking about being adopted or of a different race with our families. We had to censor what we said so as not to appear ungrateful. The result of all of the above meant we had to suppress our feelings about what happened to us and how we dealt with being different/ being adopted. Isolating our inner selves became our way of being.

Our isolation was complete due to the times and location. We barely use cell phone or computers. (we had no computers growing up and were late to accept technology. Very few of us use social networking. Many are just now discovering the internet.

Searching for us is especially problematic.

Because talk of adoption was off the table, many of us had to wait or continue to wait until our parents pass away. In my case, I had suppressed the fact that I was an adoptee so thoroughly that I didn’t even look at the files that were sent to me when my parents passed away. They sat unopened for years and I didn’t discover them until after I had later decided to search, having completely forgotten they existed.

IF we finally recognize that our adoption is an issue that needs to be resolved, then finding out about our past enters our thoughts. For me, it took a personal crisis. By that time, we don’t know anywhere to look except the adoption agency we came from.

That is, if we know. If we don’t know, there are so many to sift through. Quite often, these adoption agencies fold and their files are sent to other agencies, or their names change…

Then, you can only get your files from your adoption agency IF your state has open records laws.

And/or, if you were not adopted directly from one of the major international adoption agencies, then you have to find out which one of them your local agency brokered with.

Then you find out that your international adoption agency isn’t the last word source for all your records, that there is another entity in Korea.

OR, if you were adopted privately, you have to hunt down the lawyer who drafted your adoption, if you can find him and he’s still alive.

Only then you might realize that your International agency is actually a “partner” of one of the four licensed Korean adoption agencies allowed to send children abroad. If, like me, the International adoption agency in your country fails to advocate for you, then you have to try and get your files yourself from one of the four Korean adoption agencies who are licensed to send children for adoption abroad.

Remember, this is the older isolated adoptee who has grown up fearing Korea.

Many older adoptees are easily dissuaded at the first setback. Because our cases are more likely to have irregularities, we are often more likely to experience arbitrary treatment or withholding of documents by the adoption agencies to save face and reduce public exposure to just how many mistakes and/or ethical violations occurred back then. And so, we are an especially vulnerable population.

If attempts to get your information is unsuccessful from the country you were sent to, then a trip to Korea is in order to try and see if you can get more personally. Then, of course, if you are older the odds are smaller that any information which can lead to search and reunion will appear and if it does then you’ve not much time to search. Time is the older adoptee’s greatest enemy.

Then you must take what little facts there are and investigate if there is some hope of local records or a person who can provide more information or leads.

Unfortunately,if you are older, most of the orphanages do not exit. And many hospitals also no longer exist.

Then there is always the option of going on t.v.

Obviously, this is a confusing and arduous process. The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare provides funding to adoption agencies and organizations to help us sort out the maze, but it’s often not in the adoption agency’s interest to help us. Instead of this maze, we need to have one central place where anywhere we inquire will point to. I was not born to the country of Holt, and my identity documents should not be in the hands of a private corporation. They should be in the hands of the country I was then a citizen of, who can protect those who want to remain anonymous just as well and who there is no doubt there is no conflict of interest. We are tired of being the victims of adoption agencies saving face for past mishandling of cases. We have no confidence in them.

Now, when we come to Korea on this life-changing identity exploration, we don’t want to be treated like tourists. We don’t want the Korean government’s money spent on programs which give us such a superficial view of culture.

Instead of pity, we would prefer sympathy. We want to be welcomed and included.

I also left copies of this wonderful dialogue that transpired between myself and the daughter of an aging adoptee, perplexed as to why her mother was so inaccessible when the topic of adoption came up. I hope it sheds some light on what peculiar creatures we can be at times.

Here are some of my suggestions for improvement to Post Adoption Services…

KCARE is the government-funded institution set up to eventually become the “Central Authority” – supposedly an independent body – to satisfy the Hague Convention’s requirements in regards to protecting adoptee identity. It replaces GAIPS, the previous failed attempt to centralize services for adoptees. Essentially, it is the same as GAIPS and uses the same inadequate database and methods. The only thing central about it is that it supposedly contains information on all adoptees in one location. However, the contents of its database tell the adoptee nothing they don’t already know: the adoptee’s name, the adopting parent’s name, birth date, adoption date, the country the adoptee was sent to, and which adoption agency facilitated the adoption. Case workers who handle Birth Family Search requests for adoptees can do nothing more than ask adoption agencies for an adoptee’s records. On occasion, individual workers have advocated for adoptees by being persistent when information was withheld, but those individuals no longer work there.

Problems that need to be addressed and how it needs to be improved:

Adoption advocacy is impossible – with no power to directly access files, case workers must maintain friendly relationships with adoption agencies because any sharing of file information is a gift of cooperation from the adoption agencies. Therefore, adoption agencies can continue to arbitrarily withhold information when it suits them. All power over adoptee identity is held by private corporations, and the good relations required to maintain cooperation weakens advocacy attempts in contentious cases.

Outreach is terrible – none of the agencies or organizations refer to KCARE, so there’s nothing central about their “authority.”

Their website user interface is terrible and no instructions are given for adoptees to follow on basic information, such as how to conduct a Birth Family Search or how to get your case posted in their on-line registry. Like many websites in Korea, they utilize images and programs which render the Korean language portions of their websites untranslatable by machine translators such as Google Translate.

Up until just recently, Korean families registering their searches for their lost children were LEFT IN KOREAN, so adoptees couldn’t access the information, destroying any effectiveness or even the point of having a registry. As of this update, only 2 pages of 6 have been translated into English. Many adoptees who have registered have yet to have their cases even posted. Translation services and website entry are obviously understaffed.

Services are not central – Take Birth Family Search away from adoption agencies. The search landscape is splintered, confusing, and arbitrary.

Birth Family Search (BFS) is that portion of Post Adoption Services (PAS) that the government subsidizes. Because International adoption negated the need for the Korean government to include adoption as part of social welfare programs, the government can only allot grants to parties (adoption agencies and organizations) who propose to care for our welfare.

BFS funds can be better spent – agencies manage their funds poorly and provide weak services. In the past they have misappropriated funding earmarked for BFS as well. Holt spent BFS money on pro-adoption campaigns recently. Despite receiving large sums of money, when adoptee searches extend for upwards of nine months, they complain that the blame is in lack of funding.

I say it’s THEIR RESPONSIBILITY, and it (and other post adoption services, such as culture programs and counseling) is part and parcel of pronouncing a child adoptable. If they can’t provide for their responsibilities towards a child subject to adoption, then they should get out of the business. I feel taxpayer money to private interests – especially with such a history of mismanagement and misappropriation – is tantamount to corporate welfare.

Now, adoption agencies claim they must control adoptee files in order to insure protection of those parents who they signed relinquishment contracts with. Holt used these arguments with me to rationalize not giving me my full records, even though I was abandoned so there never was a relinquishment contract. They also used this argument to rationalize why they don’t send an adoptee’s full file to their partner International adoption agencies. I and many other adoptees subject to being denied access arbitrarily feel that the government is the only institution we can trust to arbitrate our cases fairly for the best interests of all parties, as they have no conflict of interests.

Culture Programs are part of Post Adoption Services and were instituted to give adoptees a sense of Korean identity. It has been argued in the past that this was done as part of the counting of all diasporic Koreans to strengthen the relevancy of Korea politically. Whatever the reason, it has resulted in subsidizing of culture camps and homeland tours as mandated by the Korean government of the International adoption agencies.

Programs for adoptees who choose to live here are nearly non-existent – They are not much better than for average tourists. Fulbright scholars get much richer, more in-depth cultural experiences than adoptees do, as well as home-stays and job opportunities. Korea could create a program like Vista where we could actually directly help improve Korean society while learning about it and getting enough to survive on.

Language programs are a serious need for adoptees, as we are not given the same amount of grace that non-native foreigners receive, and some of us may end up living here permanently and/or becoming full citizens. However, instead of increasing funding for these programs, they are being cut.

Programs are too overwhelming – In addition, language programs scholarship are arduous full commitments that don’t allow adoptees enough time or attention to support themselves. I, personally, have no desire to learn language to the level of being able to write a scholastic paper in Korean. For me, I needed (still do) classes on basic survival Korean, do-able with m and it would have been great to have had that when I first got here, so I could have gotten off to a running start.

Programs discriminate against age – The NIEED scholarship has a cut off age of 40, so older adoptees (who have many valuable years left, I might add) are left out.

Finding Employment in Korea is, as my readers know, challenging. One of the few jobs available to foreigners is language education, and adoptees are consistently passed over by Caucasian foreigners or Korean foreigners who are bi-lingual. Our non-native English speaking European/Scandinavian brothers and sisters are especially effected.

Our talents are unrecognized and we are undervalued. A lot of adoptees come value-added and we waste our skills here in Korea. A civil servant at the Employment Office should be assigned to adoptees and hopefully match us with businesses that could benefit from our skills. Copy-editing is always in need of improvement here and we could be very valuable as consultants for businesses as Western consumers.

In general, I told everyone that I am socially minded and liberal yet fiscally conservative. I don’t think the government should create a billion new programs for us, but that they should make the programs they started for adoptees work and incorporate us into existing programs already serving Korean citizens. They should protect our interests and safeguard our identity documents; get out of adoption agency welfare and serve us directly.

Written by girl4708

May 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

you don’t know me

with 2 comments

written in Dec. of 2010

Dear A.B.,

You don’t know me but your public information says you might be related to the only person in Washington State who has the same birthday as my possible sister. Is S.B. Korean, by any chance? If yes, please give S.B. the attached documents with background information as to why I believe we could be siblings, and inform her that I live in another country, mean only to confirm my own history, and have no intention to disrupt her life other than to derive the truth of my own history, and any and all actual contact would be entirely up to her discretion. I ask her to help me confirm or disprove this possibility, merely because the not knowing disturbs me daily and I want to find peace, finally close this upsetting chapter, and move on.


Dear Korean radio station/t.v. station,

Many Koreans in Korea searching for family don’t have any way to look for Korean children who they’ve lost in America. Also, many Korean moms have emigrated out of Korea and their American children returning to Korea don’t think to look abroad for them. If you could make little public service announcements of these family searches, it might reunite families and heal a lot of broken hearts.


Dear Oregon legislature,

Oregon law is written to protect the privacy of relinquishing mothers through a passive registry system. In the case of possible siblings separated by adoption, there is no way to confirm biological connections except through the adoption agencies which separated the children to begin with. In the case of possible siblings, there is no third party confirmation that efforts at contact were really made or that the circumstantial reasons for possible sibling relationships were presented to the adoptee in question. I see this as a conflict of interest when the same party who possibly engaged in unethical practices separating the siblings are the only party allowed to make contact. Because there was no contract to restrict contact between the two children, nor any reason that contact would ruin the social status and reputation of the other child, the argument that adoption agencies give of protecting one child from another seems ungrounded.


Dear Holt,

I can condemn the extent to which your organization overstepped the ethics and human rights of thousands of children, because you were misguided by missionary zeal and your good intent run a muck. I recognize that was in the past and I can’t do anything to change the damage done. However, the fact that you CONTINUE to impact my life with your inhumane and self-serving policy allows me to blame you for oppressing me today.

Because you were not forthright, honest, or compassionate in your post adoption services, I believe you are in breach of not only the intent of Korean Post Adoption Services law, but also all human decency. Shame on you and your entire organization for your protectionist practices.

There is only one place for Christians who harm in the name of God. And it starts with the same letter as Holt.

Written by girl4708

March 29, 2012 at 7:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Poem by a daughter removed from her mother

leave a comment »

Powerful images and rational arguments by an adoptee/scholar/poet on re-humanizing the women who gave birth to us.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs was recently reunited with her birth mother from whom she was forcibly separated from, the fact of which was not reflected in her case file. Today she is happily learning her way around the Korean kitchen under the guidance of her doting Korean mom.

Jennifer pioneered unwed mother’s advocacy in Korea and works intimately with Korean Unwed Mother’s & Families Association. She is a fellow at the Korea Policy Institute.

Written by girl4708

December 19, 2011 at 6:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

please stop – your saving is killing us

leave a comment »

Copied from one of my other blogs…

Recently I reflected that X and myself really aren’t so far apart on our views. I have come to believe that “justice” is both hard to define and probably a fool’s pursuit. We can’t change what has already been done and must learn to live comfortably with it. We can work to improve the future for those that follow us, but it can’t undo our abandonment or heal us. We must come to terms with our history, our lack of history, and all the trauma that formed us. But I wouldn’t be so cruel as to say as he does, “Quit yer whining.” Cryng is part of the healing process, and maybe that’s why he can’t heal.

Well, a few days ago X showed up on facebook adoptee groups putting his opinion out there again, not really discussing, again., and giving the same old story – that not only were mixed-race adoptees saved, but that racism is still a problem and stigmatizing is still a problem and that Koreans don’t want to adopt these problem children so international adoption is still necessary.

I didn’t have time to respond at the moment and now can’t find his comment because THERE ARE TOO MANY FREAKING ADOPTEE GROUPS ON FACEBOOK to keep up with. So, I will respond here.

We should ask ourselves first, “Is there, in fact, such a problem,? then if yes, “Is the problem nearly so large as to warrant evacuation measures?” and, more important still, “Why is this still a problem?”

In today’s Korean society, couples put off having family for career ambitions, couples divorce prior to conceiving, some travel abroad and marry foreigners, some marry visiting foreigners, and some who don’t have the status or skills to woo an eligible Korean woman import brides from other countries. Korean ethnicity is no longer homogeneous. The orphanages are not filled with half-breed children, they are filled with children who have dysfunctional parents or orphans whose extended family can’t care for them or children in respite care whose guardians are having a temporary rough time. Then there are the Holt orphanages filled with special needs children. The children sent abroad for adoption are infants, sent away to hide a family’s shame and jettison the weight which will prevent a woman from succeeding because she has no other options without family support. We also see personalities in the media rising in popularity who are mixed race. They are not feared nor reviled, they are thought of as beautiful and exotic. We know those raised in Korea did not have an easy time growing up here, but because of them society is becoming more tolerant. What if they, too, were sent away? There would not be this progress being made, that’s what.

X believes that Korea is an ignorant society that can’t change, and so intervention by the West is necessary to “save” its lesser citizens. This is in stark contrast to what I’ve experienced living here. I’ve never witnessed a place and people that changes so rapidly in my entire life. Change IS possible, and it IS happening at lightening fast speed. It just seems slow to impatient adoptees because we want to see change in our lifetime, or even more unreasonably, in the small time we are involved with Korea. The reason X can’t see this is because he’s old. He makes his living from the older, wealthier, most self-serving, conservative Koreans who have a lot at stake if society becomes more liberal. He is out of touch with youth culture. He also is holding onto the canonization of his savior Harry Holt because the entire identity he’s created for himself pivots around being saved. Now, as a war baby he has the right to love and admire Holt – but what happened to him didn’t happen to most of us – and I’m not going to argue that as a war baby he wasn’t saved – he was – but that isn’t the case anymore.

International adoption does not save anyone from Korea. What it does do is provide the means for racial cleansing. What it does do is allow for the disposal of less than perfect progeny. What it does do is allow families to not answer for shame that maybe they deserve to bear responsibility for. What it does do is provide a really painful means to regulate women who do not follow the prescribed moralities set up by the patriarchy which subjugate them . What it does do is give the government a free pass to ignore their social responsibilities. International adoption maintains and nurtures the very ills it means to save children from. It is the catalyst for relinquishment. It is the grease that oils the perpetual machine, this vacuum. And what we are seeing in Korea is what will happen in the rest of the source countries of the world unless we put some brakes on the madness and find ways to show people that every color is beautiful, all children are perfect in God’s eyes, and that our wayward daughters are still our daughters and our grandchildren are still our grandchildren.

Comments also copied from my other blog…

Jess says:
December 9, 2011 at 1:39 am (Edit)

This is such a good post because it tackles head on what the specific problems are. In one corner of the world. These may not be the problems operating in int’l adoption in China or India or Ethiopia or Russia (each has its own IA challenges associated with its own culture and history) but this is enough for someone wondering what to do and thinking about adoption in this ONE place. Certainly, it ought to give any PAP serious pause.

I don’t think people can grasp the world of international adoption by putting all of it down as corrupt. Because while it may be mostly corrupt, people will be mostly moved by understanding the factors operating in the place where they expect their child to come from. (Yes, that sounds like consumerism–I’m just presenting the mindset.) This has just come home to me recently, that it’s all really personal. Grab a person who is on one pipeline and describe for them how that pipeline *got to be* and the incredible injustices that created it and you have their attention. Paint the whole process as awful and they just tune out, though I imagine 80% of programs deserve their embarrassing time under the microscope.

Thanks again for your measured and wise words. I always love reading what you have to say.
girl4708 says:

December 9, 2011 at 3:00 am (Edit)

Thank you, Jess.

While I agree that the problem of the lives of mixed-race children being in jeopardy may (have been) be only a Korean scenario, the problem of international adoption creating a false solution and /or a temporary solution becoming institutionalized until it is the defacto solution is a valid worry regarding programs in most of the other source countries of the world.

The forces of the entitled will always create a vacuum towards the consumer, at the expense of the source country’s development into a self-sustaining and civilized society. The strength of this vacuum depresses real efforts at local solutions. The very presence of the adoption option helps create orphans…

For the consumers, most of the time adoption works, but at what cost? So many costs are never factored in, and easily dismissed.

But I totally agree with you that crying that international adoption is corrupt only stops the conversation. I also think that most programs are done with the best of intentions. The problem, which always seems to arise, is when the ends starts to justify the means and a few pesky ethics are ignored. It’s a slippery slope for good intentions, and ripe for exploitation.

I just wish people could look past their own stories and needs long enough to really consider the ramifications of and how complicated and messy international adoption is. I wish adoptees and adoptive parents and the whole world would think about how adoption is born of tragedy, and that the goal should be that adoption is no longer necessary, not to increasing it or bemoaning its reduction.

International adoption should never be more than truly temporary aid and should never be a replacement for a country’s social services, nor should it contribute to a country violating the human rights of its own citizens. Whenever implemented, it should be done so with an eye to become obsolete as the real needs and source causes are addressed.

The international adoption agencies in Korea need to stop inventing work and get the hell out so we can make a better society.

Written by girl4708

December 12, 2011 at 1:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Compassion needn’t traumatize

with one comment

While I was born after the Korean war, it is still sobering to know I was a product of its aftermath.  More sobering still, are reminders of just how bad it was for the people of The Forgotten War.

While doing image research on Korean websites today, (I love google translate) I stumbled across this amazing footage of Korean orphans during and after the war.

The Christian missionary focus of the video is unmistakable, and I couldn’t figure out if this was a memorial to the Reverend Everett Swanson mentioned or if it was someone in Korea seriously living in the past, or WHAT it could be about.

Part of me continued with trepidation, thinking it might be yet-another-attempt at canonizing and perpetuating International Adoption.

But to my pleasant surprise, these are the posts of Compassion South Korea, a branch of Compassion International (and where the organization first began), and their focus is now, and has always been, sponsorship.  Interestingly, the sponsorship today is not for Koreans, but from Koreans for children of other countries.  And, I was correct that the footage and images are there as memorial to the founder and as a reminder of how tragedy was once in Korea’s backyard and how Koreans can return the favor.  And you know what?  I bet all the 22,000 children he helped are currently productive members of Korean society, with roots here despite their losses.

Seeing these images I am so deeply moved by what happened to the country of my birth, the land where I’m currently residing.  And I truly do see how humanitarians could have been blinded by their desires to help fast and think later.  But clearly, as the late Rev. Swindon demonstrated – we can help children without forcing them to lose their country, culture, language, and each other.

God, I’m always relieved whenever I see Christians NOT wreaking havoc and doing something beneficial.  I wish Harry Holt had taken his cues from Rev. Swindon…

Written by girl4708

September 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

More than you ask for

with 3 comments

For a brief time, after I realized I was adopted and that adoption may have no small part in why the world makes no sense to me, I went into a mad frenzy seeking to find out as much information on adoption as I could.

Three years later, and I can’t find shelter from adoption all around me. Case in point, two offenses in the span of a week, and I WAS NOT LOOKING.

Assault #1

The theme of the day is birthday – for my work with TRACK and because my so-called birthday is coming up.

So I type in “balloons Seoul” to search for birthday balloons,

and what’s THE VERY FIRST F*****G HIT I GET?

Do Americans have ANY IDEA just HOW MUCH they are entitled to children from other countries? Do non-adoptees have ANY IDEA just HOW MUCH this shit is in our faces? All the time? Everywhere we turn?

Note to myself: never shop for birthday decorations on-line. Not that I would do this for myself, but it seems I can’t even do it for others!

Assault #2

So today I went and google’d “younger sister Korean” just because I forgot how to spell it. I skipped the first Yahoo answers citation because in the second citation “bowel movement…dong” caught my eye. (aw come on, it would catch your eye too) Why would those be in the same post?

One look and I knew exactly. It seems that in forty + years since my similarly piss-poor how-to-care-for-your-Korean-orphan manual, adoption agency handbooks for parenting Korean children hasn’t changed much (okay, about twenty more words) – it’s just been transferred to pixels instead of ink is all.

drill down to its home page, and it gets even worse. Figuring prominently, just below the banner in huge type:

You may be eligible for

a $13,170 federal tax credit

No Waiting Period After Approval

No Foreign Travel Required

Your baby will arrive at LaGuardia or JFK Airport in New York City.

We place healthy infants who receive personal care from foster mothers before placement

And! You can learn all you need to know about how to care for and help your Korean child adjust in one 3-hour seminar…

Oh, and please send us a donation…

It’s a good thing we can’t be crated and shipped in boxes…(which, btw, is essentially what Harry Holt did to infants on the first orphan flight – white cardboard boxes with air-holes, so the babies could be stacked)

I don’t know about you, but I’d have SERIOUS RESERVATIONS about ANY of the over 4,000 parents who answered an advertisement like theirs. Answered and received. And no doubt donated. Just gross.

The subsidized purchase of human beings is another matter altogether…

I’m just minding my own business trying to have a life. But get whacked like this on a regular basis. Me and every adoptee I know. And so will all those babies being adopted now.

Adoption. It’s the gift that just never stops giving.

(By The Indian Association for Promotion of Adoption and Child Welfare)

Written by girl4708

March 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Hope they will search

with 3 comments

These days, that’s what unwed mothers giving their babies all seem to say. They give up their babies because they have no options and they hope the babies will grow up, come back, and search for them.

Now, what are the odds they will be able to do that?

Also, the unwed moms are telling us that the adoption agencies are telling them that they will have a better chance of reuniting with their children if they give up their babies to international adoption.

Better chance. Does Holt tell them about the 2.7% reunion rate?

I just had the privilege of viewing some photos for a future exhibition of unwed mothers who gave up their babies. They agreed to have their face photographed to improve the odds that when their children search one day, they can more easily be found.

How brave and sad and fucked up is that?

A few months ago Jane translated my on-line Holt family registry at Holt Korea. Because, you know, you post your photo and bio in your native tongue and they don’t translate it. So these moms had better learn English, French, Dutch, German, Danish, and Swedish…’cause who knows which country their child was sent to. Most adopees don’t even know an on-line registry exists at Holt Korea’s website, or that there is a difference between Holt Korea and Holt International…

Even the adoption agencies can’t keep track. Supposedly Jane was sent to the Netherlands…

What gets me is – how can anybody see any of this and still justify international adoption? How?

Written by girl4708

February 12, 2011 at 12:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What would Harry Holt Do?

with one comment

Here is the awesome spoken word, by permission of the author, poet Christy Namee Ericksen.

Please support the work of Christy and other poets of color by purchasing their collective CD, of which this poem is part of. You can purchase it here.

(You can listen to her spoken word by following the link below which takes you to another page)

What would Harry Holt do?

(or, you can try wordpress’s audio player below so you can read along, but it takes a year to load)

And here’s my transcription:

What Would Harry Holt Do?

Everyone knows what Harry Holt would do:

as a businessman

who wanted to be a hero,

as a father

who wanted more;

as a Christian

with connections.


Well I want to know:

What would Harry Holt do

if he knew about all the good Korean adoptee Christians

that are hooking up all over this town?


What would Harry Holt do

if Buddhist black people started to adopt in thousands?

Or if suburban white babies were being left at Lunds & Byerlies?


What would Harry Holt do

if all the adoptees knew a song,

and the song was, “How much is that baby in the window?”

and at night we could look through our story on the bookshelf —

see the letters, see the bills; see how much it cost our parents

to buy us.


What would Harry Holt do?


What would Harry Holt do

if Korea had to shut down general operations in the summer,

just to handle the influx of adoptees —

the migration of Koreans from all these continents —

back to the land they were taken from:

looking for their roots, looking for their mothers; looking for their answers?


What would Harry Holt do

if our birth-mothers wanted to write us a letter,

but they didn’t know what Korean name the orphanage gave us,

or they didn’t know how to spell the American name they heard about,

or they didn’t know how to write Roman letters?

How would they start?

How would he start to tell them?


What would Harry Holt do

if all the Korean mothers started to cry one night,

beginning at sunset and ending at sunrise,

in the corner of each of their homes,

in the quiet of each of their secrets,

under the floors of the floors of the floors of their stories?

And their tears were so many

that they began to flow into the streets

of Seoul, of Busan, of Daegu.

And the country woke up to a new river

that everyone saw,

but no one talked about;

that sparkled like wishing stars

but filled everyone with sadness.

What would Harry Holt do?


What would Harry Holt do

if a Korean mother

and a Korean daughter

could only understand each other

if a white woman missionary from Utah translated?


What would Harry Holt do

when the only thing adoptees can really call their own from Korea

is their Korean name,

tattoo’d on their bodies somewhere,

and they can’t even read it?


What would Harry Holt do

if Korea made a new reality t.v. show,

still about Korean adoptee reunions,

but this time all the adoptees

are reunited — with him?


What would Harry Holt do

with the stress of 200,000 questions?


What would Harry Holt do

with the results of a customer service survey?


What would Harry Holt do

if we started to write our own research?


What would Harry Holt do

with all the prayers

young adoptees whisper

to Harry Holt’s God?

With all the wishes burnt on birthday candles,

all the letters sent to Santa

asking, requesting, begging for

whiter skin or bigger eyes or less flat face or

to be Megan Nelson or Camile Jarvis or

Heidi Farrington, who’s a little chubby

but everyone still likes her.

That’d be all right.


What would Harry Holt do

about love?

When money turns to shame

and an Iowa man beats his four Korean adopted children to death

with a baseball bat.


What would Harry Holt do

about love?

When things change

and a child loses their shine,

when a Dutch couple visits Korea,

picks up a daughter,

and returns her to the orphanage seven years later.


What would Harry Holt do

about love?

When adoptees are saving their allowance

for surgery to cut a fold in their eyelids,

when they’re only dating color-blind white men

who have a thing for Asians;

when they’re holding their own



in their arms,

as she breaks?


What would Harry Holt do

about love?

When their families

don’t want to hear about it anymore?

Don’t want to hear about it anymore.

You were never our Korean child,

you were just our child.


What would Harry Holt do then?


And what would Harry Holt do now?


To save us?


Written by girl4708

December 15, 2010 at 3:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

must’ve been destiny

with 2 comments

I think the following poem should be required reading by anyone considering international adoption, and it’s a fine companion piece to John Raible’s spoken-word piece on transracial adoption, Better Off, Better Smile.  It was written by my KAD sister, Myung-Sook, from her unapologetic and profoundly heartwrenching blog, Holt Adoption Product.

It was Myung-Sook who heard my small scared voice three years ago and comforted me, and it is Myung-Sook who holds my hand today when I am frightened or alone.  If I hold your hand too, it is because of her.

Please read her blog, but as an intro, please enjoy this poem presented in the same manner she did and be sure to start the music while you are reading.

Because 사랑해요 means I love you

November 30, 2010 by myungsook

당신은 사랑받기위해 태어난 사람 means
You were born to be abandoned,
because 사랑해요 means I love you.

You were born to be abandoned
Because you were born to a wrong father
You were born to be rejected
Because 사랑해요 means I love you

Do not worry
There is a married woman whose womb has been closed by God; her name is Hannah.
Hannah has great faith in God and she is praying hard to have a child

You were born to be abandoned
Because your were born to a poor parent
You were born to be tagged with a price
Because you were born in a poor country

Do not worry
Hannah lives in a rich country.
And she’ll pay any price to have a child

You were born to be abandoned
Because you were born to a sinner
You were born to be sold
Because you were born in Korea

Do not worry
There is man who heard Hannah’s prayer; his name is Eli
Eli will fix your mother’s mistakes in the name of Jesus

You were born to be abandoned
Because God placed you in the wrong womb
You were born to be shipped off to strangers
Because you were born in the wrong country

Do not worry
The followers of Jesus will fix God’s mistakes.
And the followers of Confucius will send you off with an escort

Be grateful that you are not useless
Hannah’s is happy now, because of your existence in this world.
Followers of Jesus made huge sum of money, because of your existence in this world.
And the followers of Confucius will be happy, the day you’ll visit your birth country to spend your money.

당신은 사랑받기위해 태어난 사람…

The Contemporary Christian use of adoption for personal gain obliterates the fact that we international adoptees are a product of social injustice, and both Myung-Sook and John Raibel’s pieces give voice to the children who were silenced during this process.  International adoption capitalizes on social injustice and benefits from its continuation:  it is no charitable act.

Written by girl4708

December 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Lost and Found

leave a comment »

But being able to recover your identity and finding your real family?  It’s worth it all…

Written by girl4708

November 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s a beginning…

leave a comment »

Adoption to require approval of court

2010-09-27 17:57

A 43-year-old father surnamed Hong gave up his three children for 5 million won ($4,300) per child last year. Each child was adopted to individual families who hoped to have additional points in bidding for a new apartment. After the draw, regardless of whether they won the ownership or not, the children were sent back to their father.

In 2006, a six-year-old Korean girl who spoke English, Chinese and Dutch but not Korean, was found in foster care in Hong Kong. Seven years after adopting her during their stay in Korea, a Dutch diplomat couple abandoned her and explained belatedly she suffered from “a severe form of fear of emotional attachment.” The girl found a new Korean family residing in Hong Kong in 2008.

Under the nation’s current law on adoption, children can be adopted when there is agreement between “two parties” involved. When they are orphans, such basic consent is not needed.

Aimed at settling a new adoption policy is good not just for parents but for children, the government has decided to revise the related law, which will include the introduction of a “legal permit system.”

According to the Ministry of Justice on Monday, adoption of underage children would be allowed by the family court after examining potential parents’ intention of adoption, financial reliability and criminal records. The new measure will be implemented regardless of the parents’ or children’s nationality, officials said.

The ministry plans to finalize the revision within the first half of next year for a parliamentary approval, they said.

Along with the revision, the government is also considering joining the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, an international resolution aimed at ensuring the best interests of adopted children and prioritizing encouraging birth mothers to raise their children over domestic and international adoption.

While some 70 nations in the world have already signed the treaty, Korea is one of few countries yet to join.

The government’s move came after the repeated demand from civic groups, especially those of adopted people in recent years.

Korea, sometimes mocked as a “baby exporting country,” has sent more than 200,000 children abroad since the 1950-53 Korean War. Still, some 1,200 children find a new home in other countries every year.

Due to the current lax law, some brokers force young single mothers to give up their child for adoption. The welfare of children is sometimes less considered, with abuse cases reported frequently.

And such covert dealings make it difficult for adopted people, especially those taken into foreign families, to seek their birth parents when they are adults.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldm.com)

Written by girl4708

September 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Yes, we can!

leave a comment »

Chosun.com article translated into English by http://www.asiancorrespondent.com/ Korea Beat

“Our A is so cute with such a white face, no? She tells me that what she wants to do here the most is study really hard.”

On the morning of August 23, 15-year-old A, a third-year middle school student, was bashful as she introduced herself in jeans and a white t-shirt after being introduced by Lee Chan-mi, a social worker.

That was the scene in class on the first day of operation for the Narae Alternative School (나래대안학교), the first alternative educational institute for unmarried students in the entire nation. It was a time for them to see one another’s faces and introduce the school members sitting with them.

The students in the first day’s class included A and one other, a first-year high school student. The two attended regular schools until it was found they were pregnant. The students now receive regular lessons here, and when they graduate they will receive diplomas from their original schools.

The Seoul Office of Education (서울시교육청) chose Ae Ran Won (애란원), an organization for unmarried mothers, to be the site of the education facility, and the Narae School now operates from the same building and protects the educational rights of unmarried mothers.

On August 23 the Ministry of Science Education, and Technology (교육과학기술부) published a report, titled 학생 미혼모 실태조사 연구, according to which there are 73 unmarried mothers living in the 35 facilities for them nationwide and 85% of them are not attending school. Many of them were forced to drop out when their schools discovered their pregnancies or else put their schoolwork on hold to give birth and take care of their babies.

17-year-old B, a second-year high school student who sat in on a class at the Narae School and hopes to attend, has the same situation. In May her school forced her to drop out when it discovered she was pregnant. “The other students will be harmed,” was the reason.

Due to give birth in December, B said, “I guess I would have had to study by myself and just get a GED, so I’m extremely happy there is this place where I can graduate and a diploma from my old school… my dream is to study hard and become a hair designer.”

The unmarried mothers who enter the Narae School live in Ae Ran Won and study five subjects (Korean, English, math, social studies, and science) for two to three hours per day, and then take courses in preparation for parenthood and vocational licenses. Ae Ran Won contains a nursery and after givign birth the mothers can study while living with their babies. After giving birth they may go back to their original schools if their health permits and if the school accepts them.

Seoul and Incheon are the only areas with education institutes for unmarried mothers. The Ministry plans to have the 16 city and provincial offices of education each establish at least one such institute next year.

Of course there is no such facility for the miserable screw-up fathers, who are not expelled and will graduate as if nothing happened.

Written by girl4708

August 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Questions to ask about adoption from S. Korea

leave a comment »


Why are the adoption agencies against improvements to social services for unwed mothers?  Shouldn’t an institution that purportedly cares about children be enthusiastic about preserving original families whenever possible?

Why does Holt International say they comply with the Hague Convention when they source babies from Holt Korea, and Korea does NOT comply with the Hague Convention or the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child?  Isn’t that deceptive?

Why does Holt continue to say children will die if they are not adopted from S. Korea?

How can Holt say there is no conflict of interest operating unwed mother’s homes when their primary operation is exporting infants?

Why does Holt have associations with over 22 hospital maternity wards?

Why does Holt call infants motherless and homeless when the children were not abandoned or found on the street?  When the reason they are orphans is because the majority of the children’s mothers were counseled into giving up their children.  And the mothers comply because with inadequate social services they have no real options left them.

Why does Holt spend government grants for Post adoption resources on adoption advertising campaigns?

Why do adoption industry CEO’s make six figure incomes?

Why does Holt continue to portray Korean children as products of a war-torn country?

How can Holt afford to support a touring rock band promoting adoption?

Why does Holt spend $600,000+ each year on adoption advertising when there are wait lists for adopting?

Why has Holt never had an exit strategy after their war relief efforts (their rationale behind starting international adoption in the first place) after the war ended?  It’s been 56 years intervening in Korean society…


Why does the government not have access to the identity papers of all Korean adoptees?

Why are those papers left in the hands of private agencies?

Why is there no third party oversight of adoption practices?

Why won’t S. Korea comply with international conventions concerned with ethics in adoption?

Why is the 13th ranking member nation of the OECD unable to provide adequate social services to its own people?

Why do Korean companies pay millions for cosmetic surgery for disfigured children in third world countries while disfigured Korean children sit in orphanages?

Why is disfigurement grounds for becoming an orphan in Korea?


How can there by any honor in preserving family honor by forcing your daughters to relinquish their flesh and blood?

What is more valuable, denying indiscretions and their outcomes?  or preventing the outcomes of indiscretions?


Why do adoptive parents (AP’s) and potential adoptive parents (PAP’s)  ignore all of the questions above?

How can Korea ever hope to establish their own social programming when international adoption agencies remove the government’s responsibilities?

Why do most AP’s not bother to even come to investigate the conditions and culture of the country their orphan came from?

Would you want to be raised a Caucasian minority by an all Korean family in Korea?

Can you not see that for each of the 200,000 children that have been sent out of the country, at least that many Koreans live with the grief of losing a child?

Do you really believe that many children were intentionally forsaken???

Shouldn’t the need for adoption programs in any country eventually become obsolete?  With Korea being the first and oldest source country, and model for all international adoption programs to follow, what does its long established institutionalization say about the marriage of charity and adoption?


This adoptee is constantly accused of not being objective, which is ridiculous, because it is impossible for an adoptee to be objective about adoption.  Objectivists merely report.  Subjects understand on a deeper level, and history shows us that major shifts of consciousness have followed policy changes instigated by those who have been subjugated to injustice.

Despite whatever bad and good feelings/experiences this adoptee has had, this adoptee is still a rational / logical being, and logic tells this adoptee that the adoption solution is no solution at all.

Until adoption industry pressure on this society is curtailed, and until law is enacted to preserve families and the civil rights of adoptees, and until PAP money stops perverting politics and driving market forces, the Korean people will never get a real opportunity to evolve or grow into their civilized potential.

Written by girl4708

August 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

First Person Plural

leave a comment »

Documentary film about the true story of Deanne Borshay, who was  swapped with another girl and sent to live her life in America.  It’s on-line for streaming video viewing until September 11th…

My access is restricted because I’m in Korea.  :(

And here is the trailer for her new documentary, a sequel where she goes to look for the other girl.  It will air on PBS on September 14th

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The other side of the coin

Now, being all new to adoption two years ago, I wasn’t quite exactly sure what people meant by the word entitlement bandied about by anti-adoption adoptees, but I knew in other circles it meant the haves thinking everything can or should be theirs.  I also knew that adoptive parents really resented being accused of exercising their entitlement to adopt, especially since applying is viewed as an ordeal by some.

Living here in Korea and thinking about the war and Korea today, I’ve come to appreciate just what entitlement means.

Harry Holt, who is portrayed as a simple man of extraordinary magnanimity, was in actual fact a rather wealthy zealot:  wealthy enough to quit farming and travel the world to participate in missionary work without anybody missing bread on the table at home.  He claimed God spoke to him by pointing him to a piece of scripture which he interpreted as a command to take children from the East and turn them into Christians.  Because he was an evangelical zealot, he saw the entire population of Korean children as fodder for easy conversion, and it was his goal to bring as many as he could to God by removing them from their heathen country.  And so, in an amazing PR move, he set about making himself a precedent and getting the government to sanction his efforts by calling it war relief;  thus creating a mechanism whereby he could ship a steady stream of these children to America to live as Christians.  And which later he was able to permanently change adoption law…long after the war was over and continuing to the present day.

What he did by coming to Korea and starting International adoption was he carefully crafted the marriage of charity with the acquisition of children.  Social workers at the time were appalled that children would be uprooted from their native cultures and worried about how (or if) they would assimilate into a country where they would be a minority and possibly marginalized. They questioned whether importing these children was in the best interests of the child.

The first children he brought over were Amerasian children, who would have been targets for discrimination and difficult lives.  Were his intentions charitable, or were they exploitative?  Helping those Amerasian children was admirable, but was bringing them to America for the children, or were they being used as an experiment in gaining future evangelical Christian recruits?

I’ve talked to some of these older adoptees, and the stories are pretty horrific.  They were used as servants and laborers.  They had doctrine hounded into them.  They had the Korean LITERALLY beaten out of them.  They were abused in many ways.  They were denied shares of inheritance.  OR they became almost evangelical themselves, preaching the word of how Harry or God saved their lives.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand, entitlement. People around the globe were fascinated with this act by Mr. Holt.  FASCINATED.  My mother included.  Why, you mean we can be charitable AND get a child by doing so?  We can help a child and get to keep it?  And this is where entitlement comes in.  Because people who would have never considered helping a local orphan suddenly wanted a child that came delivered from a plane.  Or, the inverse:  the fact they could get a child previously only seen in magazines might prompt them to suddenly become charitable.  From that time forward, helping children overseas only became desirable if it gave an immediate and direct benefit to the benefactor, and in this way have the lives of children been com-modified as a luxury item.

And the reason for justifying the transportation of children 5,000+ miles away from their country was that they had the means.  EVEN if it was a struggle or sacrifice, they still had the means.  And having the means allows one to entertain one’s wants with less consideration.  And THAT is adoptive parent entitlement.

And that is by no means an indictment of adoptive parents:  I too am guilty of this on occasion.  It just is what it is and should be recognized, so we can really look at the whole picture honestly.  It’s like me recognizing when I’m being a racist.  It’s uncomfortable but necessary so we can work harder to make more informed decisions in the future before we’ve gone and contributed to this mess.

Not much has changed since then, except that Christianity is no longer the prerequisite for obtaining a child from another country.  And that’s only because the U.S. government made them…

No.  Wait.  I forgot what a strategic genius Harry was.  When the stock of Amerasian babies ran out, and when the economy improved and starving families ran out, he managed to convince Koreans that the children of unwed mothers should go to him.  So that he (and now his daughter) may call them motherless and homeless.  (they counsel the mothers to give up their children and then call the children motherless and put them in foster care and then call them homeless!)  So that people who want children from magazines can continue to think of their wants as charitable and totally ignore the social conditions that don’t improve because of the intervention of adoption agencies.  Adoption is to social services as the ajumma is to street cleaning, who arrives at dawn so the streets are spotless when the business day starts.  Yup, adoption is a wonderful thing for the Korean government.

It’s quite the marriage:  Harry Holt + Korea.

And now + Ethiopia, +China, +the Philippines, +India, +Thailand, +Vietnam, +Nepal, +Uganda, +Haiti.

And if you notice, Holt continues on in Korea almost 60 years later.  And notice too that Korea is the only country that isn’t in poverty, with China rising in ranks.  And that is because Korea has the dubious distinction of being the first country from which children have been taken for International adoption.  And you will no doubt notice that, if Holt International has their way, they will continue to “help” all those other countries long after their fortunes improve. And they will be there at the first international disaster, ready to lay the foundation for a continued presence in whatever country is currently on their knees.

Staying long after you’re no longer needed.  Creating a need where none exists.  Fighting efforts to improve social services.  To me, Holt and the other international adoption agencies are no charity.  They are exploiters now only pandering to the entitled.

All I’m saying is look.  Recognize.  Let’s stop the madness.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One side of the coin

leave a comment »

So I’m a little late posting this, but here is an excellent (and grisly) photo essay on the Korean war.

click on the photo to get to The Boston Globe’s continuing photo essay series, “The Big Picture”

Back then, adoption may have been necessary for some children bereft of family. But comparing those conditions to today, and it’s clear there’s no compelling reason for adoption to exist in Korea.  It’s elective.  (Adoption and relinquishment are two words that really have no business being used together, in my opinion)

click on photo for more info

There’s also no reason why Korea can’t take care of its own citizens.

Today, Korea can spend 6.5 million U.S. on sidewalk signage in one district that can take photos of you, email them to your friends, and surf the internet.

Today, Korea sends millions of dollars in charity to third world countries every year. They also send doctors to perform cosmetic surgery on children so they can lead a better life, but Korean children with the same affliction get put in orphanages.

Today, Koreans are spending millions again on programs to integrate foreign brides and migrant workers into society, who will marry full-blood Koreans and produce mixed-race children because there is an exodus of Koreans out of the country and the lowest birth rates in the world, coupled with the highest abortion rates in the world.

Korea has the money.  But Koreans are so preoccupied with appearances that they will throw away their own people if they aren’t image enhancing.

So what’s more immoral?  That your daughter/sister laid on her back?  Or that you forced her to throw away her child, a human being, because it made you look bad?  What kind of honor is found in that?

A.  None.  It’s Korea’s greatest shame, this preoccupation with looking honorable.  It turns honor into a lie:  not really earned or deserved.

The grisly photos of atrocities against civilians on both sides and the oppression of Korea’s daughters to me suggests the same thing, and that is misspent passive aggressive rage.  Rage at being oppressed:  by outside forces, by those born with more power, by men.  Rage at being divided into unclimbable social strata.   Listen to what the old folks have to teach about culture.  Don’t listen when they tell you you’ll be better off without your children.  I hope the old folks here go to a better place.  Let the rage be buried with them.   Let us build a better society.  Let all young Koreans fight that legacy and create something healthier and more honest.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


leave a comment »

Heard recently that HOLT is expanding its offices in Seoul. (???!!!)

I kind of think this structure made of bamboo would be appropriate.  Environmentally sensitive, made in China and inexpensive, saving adoption fees, and also a good choice for the temporary (cough) nature of aid (clears throat) work.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Two videos of orphanages

with one comment

This is shamelessly copied from Jane’s blog, without permission.  On this occasion, two months into the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean war and me thinking about Korea, war, and orphans, I remembered this post and thought it an appropriate time to bring it to your attention.  Jane’s post below:

::Welcome to Geon Orphanage::

I think this video is really well-done. It gives factual  information about the kinds of Korean children who live in orphanages today, and it shows a modern orphanage. It appears to have been made by a younger white male English speaker, most likely an English teacher here.

Now, the following video by Holt International visually invokes the Korean War, stressing that terrible period of time as if it still exists. I think it is a common tactic for adoption agencies involved in Korean adoption to keep hammering on the Korean War forever and ever, which is why so many adoptees and adoptive parents are surprised to see a very modern Korean when they get here. Of course, the narration is overly sentimental, designed to grab at heartstrings instead of shedding the light on the harsh realities of the barriers that Korean single mothers face in being able to raise their own children.

End of Jane’s post.

If you double click on the Holt video, the comments on that last video are pretty astounding as well.   I just wish I had video footage of the unwed moms and their kids together.  If people saw that, they might truly be disturbed about Holt’s video above…

ADDED:  Most children living in orphanages today are there because their parents are having difficult circumstances due in no small part to crappy social services.  Many of the stays for these children are temporary.  On the flip side, I don’t have any statistics, but I’ll risk saying that ALL of the children who aren’t handicapped in the International adoption programs are infants with living parents.  I’ll also speculate that most of their mothers don’t REALLY want to give their babies away.  But, like Choi Hyun-Sook, when your brother insists he watches you sign over relinquishment papers, and when you investigate and there are no adequate social services to help you, and all of the adoption agencies tell you your life will be destroyed if you keep your child and don’t offer to tell you about any alternatives, then it’s no wonder these babies are given away.  The  coercion is omission.  The loaded gun is social pressure.  The only choice is no choice.

So are we “helping” or “saving” by signing on for the Korea adoption program?  Or are we adding to the pressure?  Adoption agencies call it relinquishment, but I call it exploiting the vulnerable, which can also be called theft.

And how does it feel to have given away your child under these circumstances?  Go to Ae Ran Won’s old English web site and click on Writings to find out.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Remembering Koryo Book Review

leave a comment »

From Lee’s Korea blog at Global Post


.One of the more contentious issues is that the charitable origins of the main adoption agencies appear to have transformed into privately owned for-profit operations. Contrary to what many people reasonably assume, virtually all adoptions of Korean children are managed and profited from by privately owned businesses that charge thousands of US dollars to prospective parents in western countries. These proceeds are used to profit the companies (invariably titled as Welfare Societies or Services), as well as pay off midwives, obstetricians, ‘counselors’ and the Korean government, providing an attractive solution to the ‘orphan’ problem. Around US$15-20 million per year is made through Korean adoption, which is significant compared to the amount spent on public welfare, and the burden that would be incurred from providing for thousands of babies in foster programs.

Three of the four major adoption agencies run their own pregnant women’s homes, with bedside ‘advisors’ for mothers who may be considering giving their child up for adoption. One runs its own maternity hospital, and all four support or run their own orphanages. All four pay foster mothers about $80 a month to care for the infants, and the agencies can provide all food, clothing and other supplies free of charge. The agreement is that the agencies will cover the costs of delivery and medical care for any woman who gives up her baby for adoption. They also pay a lump sum of cash to the relinquishing mother. This system not only makes it easier for single mothers to give their children up, it actively encourages them. In the 90s, a Korean baby could cost a western couple around US$5,000 depending on the agency, but in 2010, the prices can be as high as US$40,000. These prices are labeled as ‘administration and medical fees’ and despite the considerable costs, the overseas demand for young healthy Korean babies has always outpaced supply.
As well as the ‘pull’ from these market forces, there are also significant pushing forces for single mothers to give their babies up…
Sounds like a book to go pick up if you can…The book is currently available on sale at major retailers in South Korea, but will be selling on Amazon in a couple of weeks. A Korean translated version will be released in December.

Written by girl4708

August 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Korea’s Lost Children

leave a comment »

Check out the BBC documentary, Korea’s Lost Children featuring:

yours truly,

Jane Jeong Trenka, (president of TRACK)

Hyun-Sook (founder of Miss Mama Mia)

Molly Holt (president of Holt Children’s Services Korea)

Two connections I failed to make in the documentary (gah!  so close…media attention will be over long before I ever even come close to mastering being fully present for it):

  1. 13 years after the war, the reason I was abandoned was BECAUSE adoption agencies had set themselves up as the only solution for difficult family situations.  And NOT just standing by at the ready, but actively canvassing for children. It was a propaganda wave and a system set up to pipeline children straight to the airport.  That’s just chilling in my book.
  2. Adoption agencies say they MUST be here or catastrophic conclusions will become realities.  When in actuality, their presence retards the implementation of adequate social programming.

One question everyone should ask themselves is:  Why are the adoption agencies against laws to improve social programming and protecting the civil rights of children? Shouldn’t it be the goal of every adoption program on the planet, especially a Christian organization, to no longer be needed? Who do they care the most about?  Hmm?

And something everyone should consider is:  When you choose to ignore questionable ethics and continue to participate out of self interest, then your own ethics are also questionable. And nearly every adoptee I’ve spoken with, even the ones that had great experiences, you can tell.  You can tell how they came to become family does not feel good to them.

So why aren’t we all working together to clean the mess up?  I’ll tell you why:


Written by girl4708

August 8, 2010 at 2:35 am

White Dust

leave a comment »

There is no school today, as it’s a school holiday:  the founding of the school.  Despite having much to do, I am distracted.

In the absence of air-conditioning, the fan emits this low noise pollution, sucking in organic matter through the window and blowing it and formerly undetected fine white powder from the installation fabric across everything.  It clings to every surface and then to my half naked body which moves restlessly from place to place to place.  It’s pernicious, this grit.  How many cleanings will it take for it to disappear?

I try to make myself feel better:  I watch movies, I pick up and drop several projects, I go for a walk, I check out another health club, I look for activities to join, I remember I should eat, etc., but nothing engages me and I just make the circuit of my room over and over again.  I feel lost.

Jane’s writing from the TRACK blog grabs my attention:

Each misplaced, forgotten, thrown away, ripped-up, spilled-on, smeared, misstamped, lost and found again later tag still represents one child, one file. We keep finding stray tags now — one at a time, sets of them– unlabeled, unaccounted for. I found a stray tag today next to the door of my apartment, next to the garbage can and the shoes. “Where do you belong, little girl? How did you get here?”

I feel like that lost tag.  I am that lost tag.

I am out of place.  I am out of time.  Despite my best efforts, I am always orphaned and alone and abandoned.  Love is a privilege denied me.  The losses collect. The white dust is like the grief I can’t wash away.

I know it’s not finished and it’s badly edited, but I don’t know how much longer I can linger on this and stay healthy, so here is my unfinished video gift to Kim Sook Ja and all the other Korean adoptees out there in the world who, despite their best efforts, sing private songs of lamentation when they long to sing for joy:

I hope they have some company, wherever they ended up:  someone to take their part and soothe them.  This is the best I can do:  say I understand the loss and isolation you have felt/feel.

You are not alone.

Written by girl4708

August 8, 2010 at 2:31 am

Structural Violence, Social Death, and International Adoption

leave a comment »

Head on over to Condusive Mag to read Jane’s majorly important 4-part series of  research and analysis of how international adoption operates in Korea — the model for all international adoption.

Structural Violence, Social Death, and International Adoption: Part 1 of 4

March 19, 2010

By Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death, and  International Adoption: Part 1 of 4Outside Eastern Social Welfare Society’s front door in Seoul: “Domestic Adoption Consultation. Unmarried Parent Consultation.” In 2008, 98% of the 336 babies sent overseas for adoption by Eastern were from unwed mothers, and 80% of those mothers were over the age of 20, according to government statistics. It sent 38% fewer children (208) for…
Read more »

Structural Violence, Social Death, and International Adoption: Part 2 of 4

March 20, 2010

By Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death, and  International Adoption:  Part 2 of 4Korea has been known as the “Cadillac” of international adoption for its supposed ethics and legality. However, as adult adoptees search for their birthparents and are reunited, it becomes apparent that Korea’s system has been riddled with abuses. Watch a program from Korean national broadcaster KBS to see the story of one adoption in which…
Read more »

Structural Violence, Social Death, and International Adoption: Part 3 of 4

March 21, 2010

By Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death, and  International Adoption:  Part 3 of 4Why International Adoption From Korea Doesn’t Make Sense (and Why Korea Does It Anyway) Let us ignore for a minute that no international convention states that poverty is in and of itself is a good reason to separate children from their parents, communities, or countries. Let us play along for a minute with the rather…
Read more »

Structural Violence, Social Death, and International Adoption: Part 4 of 4

March 22, 2010

By Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death, and  International Adoption:  Part 4 of 4This broadcast (online in six parts) aired in Korea in 2009 and uncovered many irregularities in Korea’s adoption system. This mother relinquished her baby because the baby was born prematurely and she did not have the money to care for her. You can see in Part 4 how the mother is treated by the…
Read more »

Written by girl4708

May 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Looking at numbers differently

with 3 comments

Last year 1,080 children were adopted from Korea to the United States.

When we hear a figure like, “approximately 1,000 children” were sent abroad for adoption, it gets diminished in our minds because it starts with one.  Whether it is one, or one hundred, or one thousand – just beginning with the number one our minds associate it with the lone figure one with some zeros added, so it seems less than it really is and we don’t bother to look closer.

But what does 1,080 actually mean?  It means that, on average, almost Cthree children EVERY DAY boarded a plane from Korea, never to see their country or their mothers ever again.  When you think of THREE EVERY DAY it somehow seems like a lot more, doesn’t it?

Most of those children will go to homes where they will know the meaning of one on a profound level:  for the others in their family will not be able to share their loss, or understand what it is to look different, or to be disconnected from those that look like them, or have to explain their existence, or try to reconcile why they were given up.

1,080 is a huge number.  Even if it pales in comparison with the peak year of 1985, at 8,837 international adoptions, (that comes out to about ten children every day) it’s a huge number to each of those children and each of their mothers.  And we can see that whether it’s three or ten daily, both figures are too many and they add up…

The statistics begin in 1968 with 6,677 children adopted abroad, even though the war effectively ended in 1953.  The total statistics from 1968 – 2008 are 161,558 children.  Add in the 1,125 sent for international adoption in 2009, (89.3% who were children of unwed mothers) and then extrapolate the missing statistics from undocumented private adoptions and the 12 years between 1955 (when Harry and Bertha Holt petitioned congress to allow international adoption) and 1968, (which probably started moderately but grew to 1968’s huge figure) and it’s very easy to see where the estimate of 200,000 Korean children adopted abroad comes from.

Back when I was in the Holt Korea office, looking through the 1966 book of transfer documents from the county where I was born abandoned in, my blood ran cold as I flipped through page after page after page after page of children.  Literally hundreds of them.  Several every week from my town alone.  There aren’t even any statistics on the total number of international adoptions that year, and none of these books (1967 and earlier) are included in the government’s official count of total international adoptions.

The book of abandoned children was just one book of many for Korea that year.  (the book few adoptees ever get to see, unless you rampage like I did and come armed with a film crew)  How many books filled with several hundreds of children each are locked up in Holt Children Services’ vaults?  And Eastern Social Welfare Society’s vaults?  and Korean Social Welfare Services vaults?  and Korea Social Services’ vaults?  The answer?  approximately 200 times 1,000.

That blue book with hundreds of slips of paper in it — all from the same county, from the same year — made me realize just. how. much. one. is.  One child.  One slip of paper.  Filling a book.  It was an epidemic of abandonment, that spread like wildfire throughout the entire country.  The year of 1966 was 13 years after the war ended.  The peak year of 1985 was 32 years after the war ended.  Doesn’t that seem odd to you?  The primary reason for all this abandonment was because the adoption agencies were there, canvassing for babies with whatever promises, lies, coercion, or rationalizations they could come up with.  Canvassing for babies with ever growing sophistication in a system that had become an institutionalized machine:  a machine that is adaptive and changes in whatever way necessary in order to continue canvassing for babies.

Now, imagine if you will, that America’s solution to its social problems was to send the children of poor families and welfare moms to Dubai or Brunai for adoption?  Now, imagine there are government sanctioned child hunters in your country, scouring the hospitals and running unwed mother’s homes.  But let’s also imagine there is no welfare or  social services in America.  Or that the only socially recognized birth control is abstinence.  Imagine that baby farming was never abolished in America, and girls are still sent away to give birth in shame and secrecy and must leave the unwed mother’s homes with empty arms.  Now imagine if 200,000 American babies were sent abroad at a rate of 3 per day?   You’d be appalled, right?  I’m here in Korea now.  I am appalled.  Adoption as social engineering is appalling. Adoption as birth control is appalling.  Adoption should be the absolute last resort for true orphans and those who risk losing their life.  Prove to me that’s the case in Korea, and I’ll shut up.

Each and every child born deserves to live their lives as nature intended, without the violence of disruption caused by outside forces upon their mothers.  Each and every human being deserves this right. Each and every 1 of those 200,000 is such a human being whose rights, in many cases, have been violated.

Each and every number representing a human being is significant.

We’re working hard right now, getting our bill before the Korean National Assembly approved to increase social services so that no more children unnecessarily become numbers/victims/casualties of this baby canvassing machine.  And we want you to know that we are not spoiled, petulant, angry adoptees: we are humanitarians who believe in the dignity and rights of all people, especially those too small to speak for themselves.

Written by girl4708

May 18, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Adoption System Overhaul

leave a comment »

from the JoonAng Daily

Many Koreans adopted to foreign countries return to Korea every year and are pleasantly surprised to see the development of their mother country. But the pain they feel at losing family, language and culture is difficult to overcome, regardless of the environment in which they were raised.

One young girl adopted by a white family in the United States even said, “I was almost going mad because I was not what I was. Though I have an Asian face, I was not an Asian person. Even though I was raised to be white, I am not white either.” That’s why Korean adoptees and their biological parents, brothers and sisters have been urging the government to overhaul our adoption system.

Even after Korea became a proud member of the G-20, the shameful practice of sending babies overseas, which began over 50 years ago with the Korean War (1950-53), still continues. Every year more than 1,000 children leave their homeland for an unfamiliar country shortly after their birth. Over 95 percent of these children are the children of unwed single mothers. Simply put, our deep-rooted prejudice and social discrimination forces them from their mothers.

The shameless practices of the related agencies also contribute to the situation, because they pressure women with nowhere to go to send their babies overseas in return for assisting them with their delivery. It goes beyond common sense to think that the agencies are coercing these women to sign on a form relinquishing their babies even before the babies are born, and refusing to return the babies without some form of payment if the mother changes her mind.

To curb this malpractice, we need to thoroughly separate unwed mother care centers from adoption agencies. We should also provide women with as much information about raising their children as is given about adoption. And we should listen to what adoptive father Dr. Richard Boas has been saying for many years: “The best solution to this problem is to create an environment in which unwed single mothers are able to raise their children themselves.” After meeting a group of unwed Korean mothers, he devoted his life to advocating for their rights.

The Korean people must also make an effort to get rid of their prejudices of Korean families who adopt. Domestic adoption is undoubtedly better than overseas adoption. But the number of domestic adoptions has been at a standstill for years, in part due to the emphasis on blood ties in our society. Therefore, a new perspective on families should take root here. Building a country that considers both single-mother families and adoptive families as legitimate would be the best way to remove the stigma that brands us as a country that exports its children.

Written by girl4708

May 12, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Searching for her daughters

leave a comment »

How many children have been separated from their parents under duress while Holt looked the other way?

How many parents were told their children would stay in Korea while they were being swiftly processed for international adoption?

Who was Holt “saving” then?

How many moms are unable to send a message across continents in a foreign language that they love them and never wanted to lose them?

from http://www.searchformydaughters.eu/

In search for my daughters

It was hard times back then and I was working hard to support the girls, which can not be said about their father. Under the strongest pressure and let to believe that the girls would stay in Korea I signed the paper. In that culture and time a young girl was not really asked. Men and parents ruled.

While I was away working, the father and his family sent the two young girls to France via the Holts agency, as I was later told.

The girls were 6 and 3 years old.

That was in Busan South Korea, December 1985.
I did not even have a chance to say goodbye.

Choi Ji Yeon and Choi Ji Hee

Holts adoptee numbers: K85-3776 and K85-3777

This page has one purpose, which is to let my two daughters know that I love them, and that I am searching for them, hoping to see them again some day.
They were taken from me.
The pain is constant.
Still I dream of their faces.
And wake up crying.

Ji Yeon, Ji Hee – Please contact me at:

I am Sung Gyui Ohk your birth-mother, now living in Denmark

Written by girl4708

May 8, 2010 at 11:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

saving children, or saving ourselves?

with 19 comments

It’s not easy being an international adoption supporter these days:  with a building media catalog of botched cases,  questionable practices world-wide, and celebrity entitlement excesses, adoption has  fallen under increasing scrutiny and attack, the most vociferous criticism coming from adult adoptees themselves.  I can’t attribute the quote, but someone noteworthy said recently that adoption was “under siege.”

That’s how this debate is being characterized of late:  as a war.  The well-funded and embattled adoption industry is digging in its heels and employing everything in their arsenal to stop this changing tide of public opinion, and at the front lines of their arsenal are dogmatic adult adoptees who refuse to look thoughtfully and thoroughly at the criticisms of what brought them to where they are.  Many of their arguments are eroding as the general public is more willing to question adoption practices in the wake of the often substantive, well-reasoned arguments made by adult adoptees against international adoption, the fifth estate, and increasingly mainstream media.

The adoption industry clings to their dogma — that they are “saving” children — tighter than ever, as if their lives depended on it.  This attitude is especially interesting in Korea, in the absence of war, in how they explain and justify their continued presence here.  That doesn’t make sense at all to me, and so I’d like to address the two kinds of “saving” they think gives them license to operate below:

I.  Not ripped, but thrown away.

In the continuing insistence that adoption is saving children from a rigid Confucian society or saving unwed mothers from the ostracizing of a severe Confucian society, some adoption industry supporters have told me (in response to my post, unfortunately I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried) that Korea “doesn’t give a shit” and will always throw away its kids, so adoption is necessary.  The presence of adoption agencies has no causal effects.

A little history lesson:

Korea used to give a shit.

Scholars have told me that prior to the existence of orphanages — which didn’t exist prior to the Korean War  — accidental children and unwanted children were kept within the extended family and true orphans were taken in by monasteries as monks in training.  So, they didn’t throw away their children and prior to adoption most children were taken care of internally by society.

Orphanages were a necessity in the aftermath of the war because the country was devastated and family networks were broken up and thousands of children were legitimately saved.  But the idea of sending children to other countries was an intervention which would thenceforth alleviate Korea of its social responsibilities towards its most helpless citizens and also later become a convenient avenue for erasing family shame WHICH DIDN’T EXIST BEFORE. In fact, INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION DIDN’T EXIST prior to its INTRODUCTION in Korea, and U.S. social workers at the time were very very concerned about the effects of uprooting children from their native culture to live as minorities in a country still uncomfortable with race issues.

Towards the end of the first wave of adoptions, Koreans were abandoning their children en masse.  The reason for this is because of the presence of adoption agencies who offered not only one less mouth to feed, but the promise of a better life elsewhere for their children..  The adoption agencies’ method of helping Korea was not to provide aid to families, but to take children to families abroad who had more means and proper Christian ideals. The concept of international, and of other non-Asian countries, was unfathomable by most, and few had any idea their children were never-to-be-seen-again.  Orphanages were thought of as temporary assistance and it came as a shock to most to discover what the permanence of relinquishment really meant.

These adoption supporters have told me, “the truth is you were thrown away.”  I’m not going to argue against the reality that I was abandoned, but I will argue against the idea that my abandonment was so callous.  Yes, I was thrown away.  But was it by my parents?  I think I was thrown away by my country, through the design of others’ deceit.  I was severed from this country by foreign forces intervening in the delicate structure of a country at its most vulnerable.  In the minds of Korean parents at that time, their children were not being thrown away, but handed up.  Up to what?  No parents (my parents) would leave a child alone on the street, in the middle of the harsh Korean winter, if they hadn’t known HOLT was there collecting children to send to magic lands where the streets were lined with gold.  These myths distributed by the adoption agencies exploited the hopes and dreams poor struggling people had for their family members, and are the real reason families abandoned their children.  It was/IS STILL the presence of the adoption agencies which is the CATALYST for abandonment.  Their presence encouraged families to split apart and the splinters were thrown out of reach.  I call that being ripped from Korea; not thrown away.

The later waves of Korean adoptees (the vast majority of them) became orphaned not because of war or post-war economics, but because there was now an established way to erase the evidence of indiscretions and their resulting family shame.

For over 50 years this adoption option has become so well established that instead of a loving (and misguided due to misrepresentation) act of desperation, it has morphed into the defacto choice for preserving family honor, when prior to adoption families just had to suck it up and live with their transgressions.  But it didn’t just morph into that on its own.  It was suggested by the adoption agencies to fill the orphanages that weren’t needed any longer.  Capitalizing on Confucian family honor was an excuse to continue practicing adoption.  The presence of the adoption agencies is now used as a means of social engineering through surgery.  And, personally, I have a hard time discerning what’s moral, ethical, or charitable in that process.  It’s time Korea understands that the wart on their face is not the child or its mother, but the length to which they will go to preserve their image and social standing.  But Korea will never have to take responsibility for their transgressions, as they did in the past, as long as the convenience of adoption is an option, and adoption agencies can never have clean hands as long as they persist in “helping” Korea by providing Korea with a trash can. Remove the means for abandonment, and what happens?  People have to begin taking responsibility for their actions.  Just like they did before adoption was here.  Just like the brave unwed moms do against all odds.

I.I.  HOLT should be canonized because they care for the handicapped and special needs children.

Taking care of handicapped and special needs children IS a great thing to do.  But again, why are those children in an orphanage and not at home with their parents?  WHY ARE THOSE CHILDREN IN AN ORPHANAGE AT ALL?

Last June I watched on the news how a jet filled with 30 Korean doctors went to Vietnam to perform cosmetic surgery on children with cleft lips so they could lead happy, productive lives. SK telecom of S. Korea has spent over $2 million U.S. on over 3,000 such operations. The irony of this brought tears to my eyes, and then outrage: Because teams of cosmetic surgeons can command great PR for Korea by saving children from disfigurement in poor countries, but they don’t do it here in their own country.  Because Korea has the money to help its own children. Because having a cleft lip is enough reason to become orphaned  here in Korea.  Because orphanages allow Korea a nice tidy way to not deal with their own problems.  Because these children are not problems, but people.

Whether Korean children born out of wedlock have ten fingers and toes, or whether Korean children have a cleft lip, or a severe medical condition, or whether Korean children are born underweight, why are any of them  (all of the above without differentiation) in an orphanage?


1) they were rejected because it ruined the family’s image or

2) there weren’t enough means to take care of the children.

In both cases, they are in orphanages:

A) because the orphanages exist, relieving the family from being responsible and

B) because social services do not provide for society

And B) never has to improve as long as there is A) because A) relieves B) of its responsibilities.

Yes, it is saintly to take care of handicapped and special needs children, but not in orphanages:  they should be cared for in their own homes and communities by their own country.  And Korea has plenty of money to do so.  But by setting up orphanages we tell Korea it’s okay to throw away the children you don’t want, to abandon the citizens who can’t defend themselves.  And to congratulate oneself or use such “charity” as justification for a continuing presence and complication of domestic affairs of a country is pretty repugnant.  Is this how we want to contribute to Korean society?  By enabling those that won’t be or can’t be responsible?   And the reason there’s little to admire about orphanages for handicapped and special needs children is because there shouldn’t be orphan ghettos created for undesirables in the first placeProviding a mechanism to abandon children — for any reason — is tantamount to condoning abandonment. And it’s not only limited to implicitly condoning abandoning children:  it’s actively promoted as the preferred and default solution.  Adoption agencies perpetuate the problems here.

And for the adult adoptees myopic enough to support the adoption industry, I’d like to add the following criticisms:

It’s just IDIOTIC for the small percentage of Korean adoptees who were saved from the results of war to hold up war practices and results as the model for peace time. And anyone who uses war practices in times of peace, for that matter.  Eliminating adoption, it would seem, negates their reason for being:  for going through all the struggles they’ve gone through.  But that’s a false dichotomy.  Eliminating adoption would instead remove outside forces and allow this country to find its own balance and finally heal itself.  HOLT, the other international adoption agencies, and adoptees like KWB, Steve Kalb, Susan Cox and Kim Brown, should find new reasons to purpose themselves — deeper, more effective ways to truly help society sustainably — instead of looking to erect monuments to glories past where they can be part of something heroic and validate themselves.  Because they’ve invested so much of themselves, what would their lives mean if it turned out they were misguided?   Can’t.  Let.  That.  Happen.  At.  All.  Costs.  I’ve no doubt about their commitment:  but they want to be a part of something that does good so bad, they don’t realize they are being used to promote and protect something that contributes to the harm of an entire society.  Plus, change takes work.  Deep work.  A lot more work than business as usual.  And who wants to work themselves out of a job?  Certainly not the adoption industry.

It’s also IDIOTIC to say on one hand that you support unwed mothers, while at the same time supporting the forces that exploit and oppress them.

Caring about unwed mothers is an issue that was co-opted by the adoption industry at first criticism but it’s a red herring, for in practice adoption industry support of unwed mothers is paltry:  the bulk of their support of mothers is convincing them their lives will be better without their babies.  And yet, the plight of the unwed moms here who choose to keep their children in Korea is too palpable to ignore, even by adoption-industry supporting adoptees.  But to give it sympathy and then ultimately dismiss their struggles as being entirely the fault of Korea is turning a blind eye to the fact that they are pressured into giving away their children TO adoption is to dismiss their reality.   So either really support those struggling moms, or quit using them and giving their struggles lip-service to appear open-minded.

Your solution just isn’t good enough.

Molly Holt has admitted that “mistakes were made.”  What if it was beyond “mistakes?”  What if staying on in a country fifty years after there’s no war is just WRONG?  What if “saving” children from a rigid Confucian society makes the society even more terrifyingly rigid with even  more terrifying consequences?  What if this intervention has totally redefined, and not in a good way, the definition of family in this country? What if these what-if’s are not speculation but a reflection of the results of international adoption?

It’s been over 50 years since adoption became established in Korea and there has been been very little progress in social services but almost 200,000 children sent away.  And this is a process that should continue?  These sad figures would indicate to me that even though adoption is some kind of a solution, there is something pathologically wrong with it and it isn’t fixing anything.  200,000 families fractured.  How can we begin to measure the amount of damage this solution has done to this nation?

Adoption agencies are like the martyr mom who promotes her saintliness to others by complaining how she always has to clean Johnny’s room because he won’t do it himself.  Johnny’s not stupid, however.  He knows he’ll never have to clean his room as long as she’s there to clean up after him.  Who’s really at fault, Johnny or his mom?  Didn’t the mom create the lazy irresponsible boy?  Only in the matter of Korea, there are human lives at stake:  the unwed moms who have empty arms and broken hearts and the children who are sent to other countries who must spend their lives explaining who they are and why.

In the matter of war, there is always a time of reconstruction where assistance is given until a country gains strength to manage their own affairs.  Only in South Korea, the reconstruction period never ended.  Because there remains this vestige of dependency that is adoption.  The exit plan never materialized, the (I would argue pathological) adoption solution was introduced, and it’s continued presence has retarded the personal growth, healing, and independence of the Korean people.

To my mind, the entire notion that Korea doesn’t give a shit and is incorrigible so adoption agencies must operate here in perpetuity is just the most negative, sad, hopeless, dis-empowered, lacking-in-faith, dismal assessment of Korean people I’ve ever witnessed.   Such statements actually resemble the patronizing dismissive sentiments of a colonist’s condemnation of those they exploit, and shouldn’t be tolerated.  I mean, there’s something wrong when the people profiting by the refuse collection are the same people that provide the trash can and are the same people condemning Koreans for using the trash can they told them they needed.    That Korean society is something to be saved from or that Korean society can not change (they were changed into a baby exporting nation, so obviously the capacity for change is there) is highly debatable and not a foregone conclusion.  And canonizing Holt and the other adoption agencies for their work – have they really been a friend to Korea?  Or are they opportunists and exploiters of Korea?  Korean people love their children too, and in the absence of the adoption solution they will rise to the occasion and take care of their own, the way they did before outside intervention.

Adoption is NOT the best solution:  giving a country true autonomy by discontinuing interventions which warp society is.  Helping Korea return to family values and community values of uri nara is.  Developing social services is.  Preserving families is.  Finding balance is.  But you have to work at it.  And you have to RESPECT people, have FAITH in humanity, and treat them with DIGNITY.

The adoption agencies and their supporters exhortations that they are continuing to “save” children and their mothers from society ring hollow.  The only ones they are saving is themselves:  from existential crisis, from their real identity work, from self reproach, from job loss, or from eternal damnation.   The sad thing is:  don’t they realize working themselves out of a job should be the goal?  That the goal should be creating strong societies that value all of its people and don’t need to abandon their children?

What a waste of their lives.  What a waste of resources, human and economic.  What a stupid battle, this adoption war.

Written by girl4708

May 7, 2010 at 6:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

unfortunately, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried…

leave a comment »

For every hour you travel away from Seoul, you also travel back in time a decade.  There are less and less resources and it is more and more conservative.  At this moment, in Daegu, a young woman is searching desperately for a place for her and her baby to live.

The young woman told the unwed mother’s home at first admittance that she wanted to keep the child.  Five times the international adoption agency pressured her to give the child up while the child was still in utero.  Five times.  And this strong young woman still said no.  How many unwed moms are not this strong?  After the baby was born, she went to her pastor for help, and the pastor tried to convince her to give the child to him.  And so, with no family to help her, no social services to help her, the unwed mother’s home merely wanting to exploit her, and even her pastor wanting what comes out of her loins, she is couch-surfing and looking for any way she can to keep her baby.  As. I. write. this.

The Korean government has begun a new program to help Single Parents.  It looks to be a great program.  Unfortunately, it only helps Single Parents who were at one time legally married.

In a remote part of Jeju island, off the coast of S. Korea, is an unwed mother’s home.  There is no t.v. or internet there.  There is no job training.  There are no real services to help a young woman should she want to keep her baby.  But there IS adoption “counseling.”

An adoptee in her late 20’s tells how her reunion is the classic case of having to remain a secret.  Her mother did not relinquish her.  Her aunt took her and relinquished her.  And so her mother was forced to create a life in her daughter’s absence, as if she’d never been born.

An adoptee sits and rots in jail in the U.S.  Jane writes him regularly:  she’s a saint.  Odds are his mother did not relinquish him either.  The trail back through time leads to an escort who took him to an adoption agency.  These escorts were often paid by the agencies.  These escorts were often midwives.  These babies were often taken from their moms by the grandmothers or other family members.  The midwife escorts could make money on both ends.

Another adoptee writes me and tells me her adoptee friend has been reunited with her mother.  The mother said the adoption agency offered her money for the baby.  I think the mom should know, since she was there…There was a period when my favorite international adoption agency purportedly offered $90 U.S. a head.

Now, can anyone TELL ME the PRESENCE of international adoption agencies doesn’t exert negative pressure in this country of my birth ???  I mean, can they really believe that? Even adoptees who grew up pampered and smothered with love?

No.  I might have been convinced before, but not now.  The truth is just shoved in my face all the time here.

You know, Koreans are prejudiced about adoptees:  they assume we grew up pampered and are envious of us and our perfect English.  And then they meet us and are clearly disturbed we can’t speak Korean and know next to nothing about Korea.  They can’t fathom what an identity crisis really is, and it seems a small price to pay for luxury and perfect English (or French or…) and so the loss of identity can easily be dismissed.

But we didn’t “lose” our identity.  Whether we had it great in our adopted families or whether we were abused in our adopted families; whether our new countries gave us opportunities or ostracized us; whether we assimilated or never fit in:  we did not “lose” our identities.  Our identities were TAKEN from us, and we were RIPPED from our country and quite often RIPPED from our mother’s arms under duress.  Even me, a foundling:  do you really think my parents would have left me on the street, in the middle of winter, if they didn’t know Holt was around collecting kids?  No.  My family was most likely torn apart by economic disparity.  How much of the $500 my adoptive family paid for me could have gone towards preserving my original family in 1966 Korea?

This violence and assault to our person-hood (and our mothers) was done to us by our own country.  It appeared first in the guise of aid from outsiders, which was gladly accepted to clean up some social problems, and now it is systemic and structural violence that is institutionalized.

And this violence is STILL HAPPENING TODAY.  How many adopting parents even bother to come to Korea?  How many have even seen their babies before picking them up at the airport?  How many white people have those children ever seen in their lives?  How many Korean words does the adopting parent know when they receive their baby?  How many Asians will be in those children’s lives?  The list goes on and on, and it’s a thousand little violences on top of the main violence that never actually goes away and is evident there every time you pass a reflection of yourself…

Today I was in the bookstore, once again trying to find resources to help me learn my lost native tongue, and I came across a cartoon history of Korea for foreigners.  The history book ends with Harry Holt saving children after the war.  It mentions the Holt’s continuing work with the handicapped and how Holt promotes domestic adoption.   It fails to mention the staggering approximately 200,000 sent abroad for international adoption, the VAST MAJORITY not handicapped, and in the ABSENCE of war or famine or really any valid reason whatsoever.

You see, the real history of us 200,000 is always left out of history books.   Because it’s not becoming.  But it needs to be in there.  But if it were really in there, then international adoption would come to a screeching halt.  So there are forces preventing the real truth to be recorded.  But it needs to end.  Now.  Not 60 years and 100,000 more babies.  Because when Korean moms want to keep their babies, and when they turn for help, they shouldn’t be greeted by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Written by girl4708

May 3, 2010 at 6:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Before Congress NOW – Bill to adopt North Korean Children

with 6 comments

They’re slipping this under the radar, and I almost missed it, but all us Korean adoptees should definitely be asking A LOT OF QUESTIONS about this bill:  like what does it do to PRESERVE FAMILIES that have been through A LOT.  TOGETHER.  It looks like a circle of vultures to me, who’ve found a back door into North Korea, and it won’t end there…

Here’s the bill below, with my added comments in bold:


March 25, 2010

Mr. ROYCE (for himself, Ms. WATSON, and Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


To develop a strategy for assisting stateless children from North Korea, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2010′.


It is the sense of Congress that–

(1) thousands of North Korean children do not have families and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as stateless refugees in surrounding countries;

(2) thousands of United States citizens would welcome the opportunity to adopt North Korean orphans; and

(3) the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security should make every effort to facilitate the adoption of any eligible North Korean children.


In this Act:

(1) FOREIGN-SENDING COUNTRY- The term `foreign-sending country’–

(A) means–

(i) the country of the orphan’s citizenship; or

(ii) if the orphan is not permanently residing in the country of citizenship, the country of the orphan’s habitual residence; and

(B) excludes any country to which the orphan–

(i) travels temporarily; or

(ii) travels as a prelude to, or in conjunction with, his or her adoption or immigration to the United States.

(2) HAGUE COUNTRY- The term `Hague countries’ means a country that is a signatory of the Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, done at The Hague on May 29, 1993.

(3) NON-HAGUE COUNTRY- The term `non-Hague country’ means a country that is not a signatory of the Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, done at The Hague on May 29, 1993.


(STRATEGY – barf )

(a) In General- The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall develop a comprehensive strategy for facilitating the adoption of North Korean children by United States citizens.

(b) Considerations- In developing the strategy under this section, the Secretary shall–

(1) consider the challenges that United States citizens would encounter in attempting to adopt children from North Korea who are currently living in Hague countries and non-Hague countries regardless of their legal status in such countries;

isn’t it irresponsible to promote adoption in non-Hague countries w/o proper oversight & child protections?

(2) propose solutions to deal with the situation in which a North Korean child does not have access to a competent authority in the foreign-sending country;

isn’t it up to each country on how to deal with non-residents?

(3) propose solutions to deal with North Korean children who are not considered habitual residents of the countries in which they are located;

this bill appears to promote international adoption as the ideal solution vs. the last resort

(4) evaluate alternative mechanisms for foreign-sending countries to prove that North Korean children are orphans when documentation, such as birth certificates, death certificates of birth parents, or orphanage documentation, is missing or destroyed;

“alternative mechanisms” looks like an opportunity for obfuscation of identity

(5) provide suggestions for working with South Korea to establish pilot programs that identify, provide for the immediate care of, and assist in the international adoption of, orphaned North Korean children living within South Korea;

what protections do S.Korean infants have from being labeled N. Koreans?

(6) provide suggestions for working with aid organizations in Southeast Asia to identify and establish pilot programs for the identification, immediate care, and eventual international adoption of orphaned children from North Korea;

this process has pressure towards one conclusion “eventual international adoption.”

(7) identify other countries in which large numbers of stateless, orphaned children are living who might be helped by international adoption; and

This looks like they want statelessness to become the backdoor to adopting within N. Korea and the agenda for all countries seems clear. Why stop with Korea – any children of any refugees in any country could be called adoptable by means of being stateless or without identity papers – gee, that might describe most refugees – never mind that they have parents and families.

(8) propose solutions for assisting orphaned children with Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers who are living in China and have no access to Chinese or North Korean resources.

This is specifically saying that people without resources don’t have children:  they have orphans – and that makes them available for adoption.   I wonder what Jesus would say about this…

(c) Reporting Requirement- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to Congress a report that contains the details of the strategy developed under this section.

This adult Korean adoptee wants to know why there isn’t a bill to help refugees preserve their families. Haven’t these parents and children been through enough loss?

This bill is holey as Swiss Cheese and doesn’t say or do anything to protect the interests of these children’s true identites with their real families.  It exploits families in the most vulnerable of positions.  It’s NOT the answer.

Please visit Washington Watch’s page on this bill. sign up and add your comments.You can also express your interests for or against without signing up under the “What People Think” widget to the right on that same page.

And also, please write your congressman expressing your concerns.  You can get on-line contact info about YOUR representatives here. Us adoption reform adult adoptees don’t have the paid lobbyists and hugely imbalanced budget for influencing Washington like the adoption industry has, so it’s important individual citizens get heard as well.

Written by girl4708

April 15, 2010 at 9:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Dreaming a World

leave a comment »

Live here in Korea, meet the unwed mothers, and you learn quickly that the most backwards thing about this place is social services to women being ignored in favor of sending babies to other countries.

As long as adoption agencies offer this convenient way to hide family shame, why should society bother to change?  International adoption contributes to the perpetuation of the problem, instead of helping solve anything.  Their token responses to this criticism are not enough.

Read these women’s stories:  They’re not just statistics, but real living, loving, deserving, human beings.  Humans that deserve a chance.

Dreaming a World
From the publisher:

“Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories is a wonderful new follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life.

A powerful follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life, this new book gives voice to seventeen Korean birth mothers, who tell their stories looking back from the present to the time they were pregnant and gave birth. They describe their situations then, the decisions they had to make, and their lives in the time since. What they have to tell us is both heart-breaking and compelling, from voices seldom heard.

Proceeds from this book support the work Ae Ran Won does together with and on behalf of the unmarried mothers who decide to keep their babies. These women receive very little support, financial or emotional. The many authors of this book hope you read it, understand more about their lives and the work that needs to be done for others like them, and give your own financial and emotional support to Ae Ran Won and the single mothers.”

Ae Ran Won’s website is http://www.aeranwon.com/

Available from Amazon.com here

In my own talks with the unwed moms, I asked them what message they had for the world, that perhaps wasn’t being communicated well.  They told me, “The world thinks we abandon our babies.  But we never wanted to abandon our babies.  Actually, society abandoned us.”

Written by girl4708

April 9, 2010 at 7:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized